The 3rd leg of our Summer European vacation took us to London. Another destination that has already been pinned on my map, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable!
After a 3 hour flight with BA from Athens to London (the crew were lovely, might I add), we waited for almost an hour and a half in the passport control line at Heathrow. Luckily there was wifi, or we would’ve been equal parts bored as we were delirious and hungry! Finally, after almost losing our luggage, we made our way to the tube and navigated our way to the heart of the city. On our first night, we were so tired and hungry that all we managed was a journey into Kensignton for a steak and then a little night wander around Westminster.
The look on my cousin’s face when she first saw Big (little- she thought he would be bigger!) Ben lit up against the night sky, was priceless! It reminded me how lucky I am to be sharing such an amazing trip with my family, and how fortunate I’ve been to have seen such marvels on my own, too. Hard work definitely pays off, and the feeling is unsurpassable when you reap the rewards of your efforts!
After a bit of a mishap with our accommodation, we were all settled, awake and ready to explore London on a sunny Saturday morning.
Our first port of call was Notting Hill, because not only is it the most charming little area closest to our tube station, but the possibility of seeing bookish Hugh Grant (girl can dream) and the promise of brunch at Gail’s is too good to pass up!
We had the shakshuka (a favourite Moroccan egg dish of mine ever since living in Dubai) and the Sweet Corn Cakes. Both were delicious! I can also personally vouch for the blueberry pancakes and maple bacon french toast being to die for as well! (layovers are hungry work! See my older London post here: London Baby!
I even managed to find another favourite of mine- fresh young COCONUTS! Yum! All in all, a great day that was complimented with an even better evening.
We journeyed to the Cambridge Theatre to watch Matilda live on stage,and it was spectacular! The production didn’t stray too far from the original narrative and the actors (mostly children) were fantastic.
A fun and unexpected surprise, and after we celebrated with a glass of red and a late night pizza in Covent Garden. Bliss!
Sunday was spent dodging the rain, failing miserably and getting wet, then seeking refuge in a British institution- Harrods! Harrods not only holds a soft spot in my heart due to it’s mascot (a Westie!), but due to the extensive selection of tea, sweets, condiments, souvenirs, shoes and books all in the one place. Heaven for someone like me 🙂 I was also very excited to purchase some of Johanna Basford’s Inky Adventure colouring books- a stress buster for adults, and children alike. I also bought the Enchanted Forest from Harrods, and the Secret Garden from the British Museum of Natural History. I can’t wait to continue colouring, as I used to love it so much when I was younger!
Piccadilly Circus/ Soho
Piccadilly is a bustling spot for tourists, equipped with an M&M’s world, Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Hard Rock Cafe! Just a few streets away is the unassumingly chic Soho, an osais for clever travellers and local Londoners. Thankfully, I had a new local to show me around, and we dined at the kitschy Thai chain Busaba Eathai and it was delicious. After navigating the tubes, city mapper (a great new travelling app, EVERYONE should download it) and google maps both simultaneously and autonomously, I was feeling quite pleased with myself, and silently tempted fate and the universe with the proposition that if I had to move to London one day it would certainly be perfectly fine! I saw a side of London that I hadn’t seen before, and I loved her 🙂
A great way to see and experience some of the touristic highlights of the city (without wasting valuable time or funds) is to buy an explorer pass and combine your attractions. We paid approximately 40 odd pounds online, and that included the London Eye, an interactive tour (and show) at the London Dungeon, and admission into the Aquarium. Perfect for a pair of history/ biology enthusiasts such as ourselves! The history wasn’t too dry and the show even included rides which where a fun and freaky way to be immersed in the Darker side to London’s rich history, particularly regarding Jack the Ripper and the mystery surrounding Whitchapel. Fascinating!
Another cute and not-as-common part of London is Southbank, on the Thames. In summer there are a myriad of food vans, festivals and community activities that are sure to keep your hunger for food (and culture). I started following many of these food trucks on Instagram, through searches and from recommendations from Jess over at Love and London…so I could figure out where they were and try the delicious food we’d practically flown half way around the world to eat!
My personal favourite is Bleecker Burger (@bleeckerburger). A juicy, pricey burger that was worth every penny of every bacon-y bite!
The British Museum of Natural History…
…Is a wonderfully place where I could’ve spent all day, but half a day is ample for most people. Admission to the Natural History Museum is free, yet in order to avoid spending the day waiting in queues, it is a good idea to be there well before it opens at 10:00am. We were there at 9:30 am and we were granted admission in the first influx of people, so the short wait was well worth it.
Certain exhibitions can be prepaid and pre booked through the museum’s website. We saw the David Attenborough Virtual Tour exhibit on First Life (and the evolution of singular celled organisms to multicellular organisms, such as trilobites) which I was enthralled by, but it isn’t for everyone. A more accessible exhibition is the butterfly enclosure, containing live butterflies in an enclosed tropical paradise. For a few pounds, it was worth being transported to an albeit fabricated rainforest to see the butterflies in their almost natural habitat. We used to have something similar at Perth Zoo when we were little kids, and I used to wear flowery hats in case the butterflies landed on me and…they did! It was great to re live that simple pleasure so far from home 🙂 A must see!
The most affordable (and adventurous) way to travel around central London is via the tube. The best way to do so is to buy an Oyster card that can be topped up an scanned at tube/ overground stations in order to use the trains. They don’t have to be registered, and the balance takes more than a year to expire, perfect for serial travellers that come and go as they please!
Another helpful mode of transport is Uber. Taxis can often charge higher rates during peak time or for a night time flag fall. With Uber, your driver is assigned to you and won’t leave until they have picked you up. All you need to do is have a wifi connection, an uber account with a credit card linked to it, and you are good to go! An Australian (or an account from any other country) uber account will work overseas, just like at home, and you will be charged in the local currency from your registered credit card. Easy peasy!
Shop til You Drop
London is full of great places to shop, depending on your taste. The ones that I’ve visited are the markets in Notting Hill and the Borough Markets at Southbank. There is high end shopping at Oxford Circus, Knightsbridge, High Street Kensington and of course Carnaby Street. Carnanby Street runs just off Oxford Street, and is home to Liberty of London and the Choccywoccydoodah store- both that have their own TV shows, and it is easy to see why!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little virtual trip to London- I certainly had a great time road testing all of these places for you, and I hope you get to enjoy the more sparkly side of lovely London as I did this time around!
Safe and Happy Travels!